A conversation with Paul Randolph

We spoke with Arizona State Devil Backer coach Paul Randolph in order to get his perspective on this big personnel changes coming to the position starting this spring.

Karpman: I just saw (senior Devil backer/tight end Eriquel) Florence and he had ACL surgery or something?

Randolph: Yeah he had ACL surgery.

Karpman: So that's a bit of hit at your position right? You don't really have that many guys this spring.

Randolph: I don't know but you know he finished the year working with me and (tight ends coach) Chip Long and did a little bit of both and I think thats what he figured out, if I'm gonna play, I wanna play somewhere and if special teams is it, than that's what it is.

Karpman: So this past season I know you didn't have the typical type Devil guys, I mean Carl Bradford leaves early and you had to make some transitions and you had to do some really creative things with your front that I thought were great. What was that like, and some of the challenges associated with that?

Randolph: Carl made it easy, he really did, because he could do a lot of things and what we had to come up with, Coach (Todd) Graham, I thought did a great job, being able to mix the personnel we had trying to create what Carl did in one. When naturally that is a challenge, especially in our league with substitutions and hurry up offenses. There's things like that so naturally it creates a challenge. Then there's the different skill sets that each guy has, you know we ended the year with big (senior defensive lineman Demetrius) Cherry, and (junior defensive end Edmond) Boateng, then we started the year with [senior linebacker Antonio] Longino, more of a linebacker type body and he gave us a certain player at the position then he moved to WILL backer and finished the year having a really good season. Then we ended up going Boateng (at Devil) and then later on by Stanford we had gone and added Cherry to the mix for more size. So for us it became being versatile in our personnel, not all right in the one player being versatile.

Karpman: Moving forward I know you're adding (highly regarded junior college transfer) Davon (Durant), I thought since watching him on film that this was the best (ASU) linebacker (signee) since Vontaze (Burfict) played and then Ismael Richardson-Murphy was probably the most impressive guy to me in bowl practices and on the scout defense. So how do you see the position moving forward?

Randolph: You know what? Davon, I think is off to a great start (as an early spring enrollee), he's hit the weight room, he's a lot like Carl, really fast, really strong, really explosive all of those types of characteristics of Carl. A hard worker, just a tremendous person but also a player, and like you said, you see the film and you get excited about it. You see him, explosive off the edge when they send him off the edge, making plays, he's a playmaker. Which that Devil position, as you know, that's what it is. So with him coming in you're also getting a bit of a mature guy, you're getting an older mature football player at the position that should be ready to play.

Then you couple that with Ismael who's a pup, but probably the hardest working cat on the team as a redshirting freshman. He has gained the size, Durant's got the size, the strength and the size also, but Ismael put on about 30 pounds in the fall. So he's grown into that frame that we thought [he would], and naturally his work ethic, I mean you saw him at practice he works his tail off, he only knows one speed, he's smart, Davon is really smart. They fit our mold of being a football player. They've got high football IQs they can learn and naturally in our system being able to learn and put it and take it to the field I think we've got two guys here in the spring that can do that. I'm excited to see them both turn loose and get going.

Karpman: Is the thinking then that you will go back to what you did two seasons ago exclusively? Or do you think there will be a mix of heavier fronts and Devil?

Randolph: Well, right now we're still drawing it up but naturally we've got a lot of depth at the d-line spot, coach (Jackie) Shipp's done a heck of a job recruiting and building that part up. But we finally feel like we've got players, the (2015 signee Jalen) Bates kid coming in, you've still got sophomore Chans (Cox) who can be that (Devil) or an end because he's holding his weight at each one right now and Boateng can do that, but Boateng is going to be more of an end now, we've been trying to grow him a little bit, he's been here a year now. So his development is moving a little bit faster than (now-departed Marcus (Hardison), naturally he got to play a whole year where Marcus sat almost a whole year.

Karpman: Right he's got an extra year too.

Randolph: Yes he's got an extra year, so that's naturally what we're excited about, so with that and of course Chans can't go through spring, Ismael and Davon are going to get all the reps and I call that accelerated learning. It is, it's accelerated learning of the position but I think they both possess the attributes you're looking for. The Jalen Bates kid is long like Ismael, he's really long and really athletic.

Karpman: He's going to gain a lot of weight.

Randolph: That's right, no doubt. We've just gotta fill that frame in which [sports performance coach Shawn Griswold] always does a great job at.

Karpman: So he'll probably start out at Devil?

Randolph: Yeah Devil, and if he grows he can always grow that way [towards defensive end]. Then last but not least you've got (2015 signee) Malik Lawal, the other guy who's more [in the frame of] Davon, he's got quite the quick twitch. So I think we're going back to that mold of that athletic outside backer type, where this past year we were more of a weak side defensive end type.

Karpman: Because you mentioned Lawal, it seemed like because he had the ACL maybe he got overlooked a bit, and you guys were on him really early and he committed early, he kind of floated under the radar to some degree. But his SPARQ number was off the charts and his film is really good, he's really strong and a similar size like Carl Bradford, I see a lot of similarities.

Randolph: No doubt, when you see Davon you see a little bit more mature body, a little bigger and filled out at this point right now but I think they've got a lot of the same character traits and they really get you excited. Then there's certain situations that we might get him on the field, like third down and long, long, long, hey let's go see if we can get after a quarterback now. That's an area we said there was no doubt we had to improve upon and we've got guys now added to the mix and of course you've got to develop them and get them to this level but we got guys I think have the ability to go and impact the quarterback.

Karpman: Coach Graham on signing day said that Malik may be able to play some WILL or SAM, especially on third down.

Randolph: Are you talking about as far as the edge?

Karpman: Yeah.

Randolph: Well, no doubt because he has shown on his film that he's no doubt, he's willing to play all three of them and I mean play in his sleep all three of them. So that's one good thing, naturally he's coming in the fall and have to pick up everything fast, where Davon and Ismael they both are already here. How we do it, the way we run our system, and all those things are no doubt going to help them be more ready to play in the fall, a lot like (sophomore WILL linebacker) D.J. Calhoun this past year.

Karpman: (Sophomore) A.J. Latu worked at Devil some, is he in the mix there?

Randolph: He's an end, oh no, AJ's 260 pounds now.

Karpman: Oh, AJ has gained that much?

Randolph: Yeah he's an end.

Karpman: Wow, he went from SAM to Devil, to now end.

Randolph: Yeah, he's grown. All you have to do is look at the twin (Ami)

Karpman: Yeah Ami is big, Polynesian guys, they can get bigger (as they mature).

Randolph: Yeah, but A.J.'s grown he's probably a legit 258-260 in that range and excited about it. He's like, ‘coach, that’s where I'm going.’ Great.

Karpman: He's embracing it.

Randolph: Yeah, he is, he is. So he'll work at defensive end now.

Karpman: And Chans will maintain being either or after he gets back (from off-season shoulder surgery)?

Randolph: Yeah, after he gets back, we'll look at how he fits. But he still has the same ability we've just got to get him healthy and keep him healthy. Then given him a chance to go, and give him an opportunity to continue, naturally. His whole deal is, I'm missing another spring and missing development time but he understands getting healthy and we'll go from there. I want to control what I can control you know?

Karpman: The last question I really have is how do you attack accelerating these guys in the spring, what's the philosophy behind that? Obviously you're trying to teach them all the skills and know everything but is there a certain way that you look at that?

Randolph: Well no doubt, right now you get the look, you know we're getting ready to start our second phase of our strength program so we'll get a chance to really get a look at them. See how they are moving around, their skill set, things of that nature as they're going through their agilities as they are going through things of that nature. Naturally you start building on that, but you go back and look at their film and see what is their pass rush move, because that's the thing you know, they're going to be able to play the run, because they're strong enough, tough enough, physical enough to play the run. The thing we've gotta get more production on is that pass pressure on the quarterbacks. Those things naturally we've gotta have a good spring developing in that area and then naturally getting back to more TFLs, and more explosive plays from that position. I think their versatility is going to give us an opportunity to improve in that area, in the sack totals and also in the tackle for a loss totals, which for us is our explosives which helps us become a better defense.

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